10 things you should know about operating a heat pump in winter
Heat pumps can be a great option for any homeowner, pretty much anywhere! They are the most cost-effective option (when compared to other electric heating methods that create original heat), and they can be a great way to optimize your year-round heating and cooling costs. However, even with all these benefits, homeowners may still be hesitant to choose a heat pump. The main hang-up being winter heat pump operation.
I mean, how can a heat pump possibly pull heat out of the air when it is SO COLD outside? Well, here are 10 things you should know about operating your heat pump in winter that may be your final push towards having one installed in your home.
- Your heat pump can always pull heat out of the air. Fingers crossed that it never reaches absolute zero on Earth! The question is efficiency. When does it become less efficient for your heat pump to pull heat out of the cold air? The answer? Well, a good rule of thumb is below freezing (or approximately 32°F).
- Defrost mode can be alarming! But, it’s crucial for heat pump operation in winter. Ice may begin to form on your outdoor components when the temperature drops below freezing. So, your heat pump will reverse operation to defrost those components. But, this will only be for a short while and is completely normal.
- But, if it seems like defrost mode may be kicking on too frequently or lasting too long… make sure you call a local heating and air contractor. While defrost mode is a normal part of operation, anything that seems excessive or out of the ordinary, should be looked into by a professional.
- It can be a good idea to pair your heat pump with a gas furnace (a.k.a. dual-fuel) – especially if you live in an area that drops below-freezing frequently. This way, you can get electric heating down to a certain point, and then switch over to gas heating (which may become the more efficient heating method).
- DO NOT rely on emergency heat for really cold days. This can really drive up utility bills, and is most definitely not the most efficient allocation of heating energy. If your heat pump isn’t cutting it, consider adding a gas furnace. Even your heat pump running in normal heating mode will be a better use of energy.
- Make things programmable. This way you don’t have to worry about constantly monitoring your thermostat. When you have your new heat pump installed, ask your contractor about a programmable thermostat.
- Like all other systems, make sure that you are paying attention to your filter. This will make sure that the air you are receiving from your heat pump during the winter is premium quality.
- Have your heat and cooling contractor explain best practices for operating a heat pump in your area during winter. They will know best practices for homes in your area.
- Make sure you schedule a tune-up at least once a year to make sure that your heat pump is in peak condition for the heating and cooling season. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
- Lastly, clear winter debris from around your heat pump to prevent blocked airflow. Decreased airflow means decreased efficiency.
The best place to start if you’re looking for best practices for your heat pump is with your local heating and air conditioning contractor. If something seems off, they are the first place you should turn.
So, have you benefited from having a heat pump in your home? Were you shocked by the defrost cycle the first time it happened?
My wife and I just moved into our new home and we love it so much. One thing we want to do make sure we have a good handle on though is making sure the heat is good to go for the colder months. This made me aware of the heating pump, and I’m going to make sure that its in good condition and that it works correctly.
I like what this article mentions about how useful it can be to have a programmable thermostat. It makes sense that this could be very helpful, especially for a heat pump because you wouldn’t need to constantly monitor it. It’s something I’ll have to remember when I’m having a new heat pump installed because it could be helpful to me to upgrade the thermostat system too.
I’m glad to hear that heat pumps are so cost-effective. We are looking at having one installed, and after reading this article, I think it would be a great option for our home. I did not know that the efficiency for pulling heat out of the air becomes less efficient at 32 degrees, as you explained. This information will be super helpful! Thanks for sharing!
I’m new to the dual fuel system (Maytag DF6SF) . since having a pure heat pump for years.
Our temp has been below freexing for 2 weeks straight & i notice the large fan blade is not running. Is this normal with the gas burner is on, an, if so, does the gas system have it’s own blower?
thanks for any info
It is normal for the gas furnace portion of your dual-fuel system to take over when it gets extremely cold outside. However, if you think something is not working correctly, make sure you get in touch with your local contractor.
Thanks for the information about heat pumps. I didn’t realize that it had to defrost itself, but that makes sense! Once we get ours installed, I’ll watch out for when that happens.
I’m from ny and never heard of a heat pump. We use gas furnaces or boilers. I have lived in nashvile now for a few years and this heat pump is garbage. Maybe they’re good in Florida but not anywhere that gets cold. My heat bill is $400 to $500 a month in winter. How is it more efficient to run the condenser and heat unit at the same time? Just install a furnace you won’t regret it.
It’s more efficient because the condenser unit pulls far less amperage to run than a heat bank. But they aren’t typically used in NY due to extremely low temperatures, which would make it ineffective – It would have to switch on energy-hungry elements anyway.
Thank you for the interesting article about heat pumps. It’s good to know that you can actually make things programmable so you don’t have to monitor your thermostat. I’m kind of interested to learn how this is set up and if it can be based on your daily schedule.